Classical KUSC Blog

December 22, 2010

A Master of the Art

Filed under: From the Program Director — classicalkusc @ 3:46 pm

Elmer Bernstein

I’m thrilled to report that KUSC will be airing another two-hour special produced by Jon Burlingame this Sunday afternoon, Dec. 26 at 2pm. The program is called Cast a Giant Shadow: The Music of Elmer Bernstein.  And you can hear an excerpt here.


The “hook” was the 50th anniversary of Bernstein’s most famous movie score: The Magnificent Seven.   But we really just wanted an excuse to honor this brilliant and amazingly prolific composer, who taught for nearly a decade at the USC Thornton School of Music, and whose entire personal archive is at the USC Cinema-Television Library.

I’m not exaggerating when I say the program was literally generated by popular demand; Jon gets copious amounts of fan mail following every one of his previous film music specials.  (By the way Jon’s centennial tribute to Alex North, entitled  Unchained Melodies, is being re-broadcast  Saturday, Jan. 1 at 4pm.)

Jon is not only a preeminent film music historian, who writes for Variety and other publications; he’s also a great broadcaster.  Our technical director, Mark Hatwan, and I look forward with great joy to each of our collaborations with Jon.

The program will feature excerpts from many of Bernstein’s 150 (!) film scores, t-v themes, and concert works, as well as interviews conducted with Bernstein himself, discussing his approach to his craft and the specific challenges he faced with many of his scores. Rarely heard, out-of-print recordings will also be featured.

In addition to the classic Western music of The Magnificent Seven (1960), Elmer Bernstein wrote the groundbreaking  jazz score for The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), the epic orchestral The Ten Commandments (1956), the poignant To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), the jaunty war march of The Great Escape (1963) and another Western classic in True Grit (1969). Later in his career, he scored more lighthearted music for zany comedies including National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and Ghostbusters (1984).  During his last 15 years in films he was a frequent collaborator with director Martin Scorsese (The Age of Innocence) and such younger directors as Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven). For that magnificent sweeping score, Bernstein picked up his 14th Oscar nomination. (He won just once, for 1967′s Thoroughly Modern Millie. )

If you’re a film music buff, or even if you’re not, I think you’ll truly enjoy this wonderful tribute.

~ Gail Eichenthal

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